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Lifeless and inconsistent; an overrated LA product - 54%

Bloodstone, January 3rd, 2005

With quality bands like Bon Jovi, Extreme and Vinnie Vincent Invasion not being metal enough to be featured on this site, I am forced to review far crappier bands like this.

This band is undeniably on the more metal side of glam - just listen to some of the riffs in "Unchain the Night", "Lightning Strikes Again" and "It's Not Love"; yup, it's heavy metal alright, even if some of the attitude and lyrics definitely hint at the 80's LA "hair" sound. However, it appears as though the band is trying to move away from that particular stereotype - not just in the riff-writing department, but also in that the whole thing is a lot more serious, atmospheric and melodic than others of the scene.

There isn't much of a "party" vibe here; instead, we get some sort of mix between the riffage and "straightforwardness" of the heavier LA scene (i.e. Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, WASP) and the atmosphere and "emotion" of, perhaps, the early prog metal scene, including bands like Queensrÿche and Fates Warning ('ryche being the closest of the two).

Sounds interesting, one may think, but no, this album pretty much falls completely flat in the end. It just doesn't WORK; not the atmosphere, not the melody and especially not the "serious" vibe of the whole thing. As if you thought that absence of a "party" vibe on here would make the band sound less cheesy than others; think about it. I mean, what's cheesier than the band Poison? Why, Poison trying to cover 'The Warning' of course! They TRY TOO HARD for their own good, that's one of the problems we have here. It's almost a bit like the song "Gods of War" by Def Leppard (on the album 'Hysteria', I should add); Def Leppard singing about the tragedies of war just doesn't sound as convincing as when Sodom does it (the lyrics are NOT the problem with 'Under Lock and Key', however).

OK, so it's a bit pretentious, that doesn't have to ruin everything completely, many great are albums are a bit pretentious too...but sorry, there's very little on here to make up for it. One very notable downside is the COMPLETE lack of passion in the band's playing, as the production comes with everything that is bad about "slick" production, most notably the fact that everything sounds so lifeless.

Lynch's guitar is all but full and meaty; the sound is ultra-sharp, but at the same time very thin and not very "hitting" at all, making any sort of headbang activity practically impossible. The sound was likely attained to achieve melody rather than heaviness, but to also be sacrificing LIVELINESS in order to attain it is just a NO for metal. The solos are of course flashy as fuck, but honestly, it does very little to actually impress in the way of construction and melody. Gimme Richie Sambora or Warren De Martini (or Nuno Bettencourt, but he deserves better than to be mentioned in a goddamn Dokken review!) any day, thank you very much.

The drumming is very, VERY stiff and constrained and could very well be done by a drumming machine - however the FUCK the dude got his nickname "Wild" Mick Brown is entirely beyond me; the only nickname I could think of that would suit him LESS is "Fill-happy" Mick Brown.

Another mystery: why in the fuck is this band named after the VOCALIST? He's just a perfect example of being fully technically capable but having a voice that is just plain ANNOYING. He's actually a bit comparable to Joacim Cans of Hammerfall, especially in general weakness, but also because his style is actually very power metal-ish, much like Geoff Tate, John Arch and maybe even Bruce Dickinson (except of course that he's far worse), which is why I often hear this BAND being described as "early power metal". I guess that IS sorta passable...but the LA hair sound is definitely still there, make no bones about it!

Perhaps because I don't play an instrument myself, it's not often I can comment on the BASS, but in this case I have to put in a good word for Jeff Pilson - I can actually tell that he's really does a great job complementing Lynch, even if he's not mixed very loud.

The REAL highlight of the album is the riffs, or just the overall guitar rhythms - George Lynch IS actually a very talented player, at least his rhythm - his guitar tone just happens to be kinda weak and flat. When the albums gets going, what we get is some pretty catchy shit - for example when "Unchain the Night" kicks in, there's a really nice groove, and I must say that the acoustic intro just before it really fits too. But even the highlights on here are inconsistent - for example, the chorus of this song simply does NOTHING and it sounds entirely out of place. What the fuck...? A nasty fucking opening riff pops up in the beginning of "The Hunter" - but again, the chorus is kinda bad; this one is just too melodic for it's own good ends up sounding too cheesy and try-too-hard. But overall, it's a really solid track and probably the best on here.

"Lightning Strikes Again" - it took me a while before I realized that this is actually the exact same riff as the acoustic intro to "Unchain the Night", but even though it does rip off ITS OWN FUCKING ALBUM, I'd say it's passable...I mean, it's obviously played in a much heavier style and thus completely changes the sound and mood of it. It's a pretty widely used riff, by the way; bands that have used it include Iron Maiden ("2 minutes to Midnight"), Accept ("Flash Rockin' Man"), Grave Digger ("Heavy Metal Breakdown", "The Dark of the Sun") and more. It's one of the very few upbeat rockers on here and this time the distortion pedal is pushed a bit more as well, so there is actually a decent amount of headbangage here, but in the end it IS kinda unspectacular...it's only given a full paragraph because it's a stand-out by this album's standards. Oh yeah, and that part towards the end of the song "LIGHTNIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!! Lightning Strikes Again!!" SHUT...THE...FUCK...UP!!!!!

Anyway, "Don't Lie to Me" isn't bad either, as it really has something going on in the verse and the pre-chorus is almost "Livin' On a Prayer" one year earlier! Any that that is in some way similar to a song like that can't be a complete loser of course...but the song as whole is more similar to "Rock You Like a Hurricane", especially that opening riff.

Beyond those four, highlights become much harder to point out. One of ballads, "Jaded Heart" has an absolutely excellent acoustic riff, but there is little else to keep one's interest (especially with that uninspired chorus) and the other one "Slippin' Away" is just complete throw-away material that is featured on the album for the sake of having more than just one ballad.

Actually, it can be argued that the album has more than two ballads, simply because of that terrible, much too soft production that definitely holds a few tunes back. One of the almost-ballads, "In My Dreams" has some decent riffs here and there and was the biggest hit from this album, I think, but GOOD GOD what's up with that chorus?! Tons and tons of layered vocals to add to the melody, I guess...say what you will, but to me that chorus sounds entirely out of tune! "Your love is STRONG, it STILL remains", those highlighted words sound VERY off. Guys, listen to Def Leppard, most rather "Photograph", and take notes. And again: 30% is about as much as you can expect this band as far as EFFORT in playing goes.

Another really popular tune out of this album is "It's Not Love"...well it IS kinda memorable I must say, especially that intro, but frankly the chorus just flat-out sucks. Dammit, I've never thought of this until I began to write this review, but this band just seems to have some of the worst choruses Los Angeles has to offer. Either they're just completely flat and do nothing or they just plain suck (like this one). Likely the worst "anthemic" chorus ever written - guys, listen to "Metal Health" and take notes. And that phone call sample somewhere in the middle - don't even make me go there. The cheesiest song on the album, but overall, still the most memorable, arguably.

Finally, we have "Til the Livin' End" which is...well, total fucking speed metal, yeah, but the songwriting is highly unimpressive and execution is entirely off, especially with this production.

I should add that neither the Poison nor the Queensrÿche comparisons are dead-on accurate at all (especially the Poison one, this band barely belongs in the same genre); Dokken really has a sound that is definitely their own, especially George Lynch's guitar. You really need to hear a few songs for yourself to get an accurate idea, but imagine a lighter and more melodic 'Shout at the Devil' on valium, with some early power metal thrown in as well - that's the closest I can get. It struggles with a lot of fundamental problems to begin with and the moments where it gets going are just too few.

Not recommended; the LA scene or just glam rock/metal scene overall (none of those bands I mentioned in the beginning are from LA!) has far better albums to offer. As for albums I am unable to review here, try 'Vinnie Vincent Invasion', 'Slippery When Wet', 'Pornograffitti', 'Out of This World', 'Sign in Please', 'Trash', 'Winger', 'Talisman', 'Night Songs', 'Firehouse', 'Open Up and Say...Ahh!' or 'Out of the Cellar'. If you're absolutely decided on getting on Dokken album anyway, try the follow-up, 'Back for the Attack' (or maybe the earlier albums, but I haven't heard those:().